HC Deb 06 July 1875 vol 225 cc1030-4

rose to call attention to the dismissal of Thomas Duffy, late Brigade Sutler, Curragh Camp, county of Kildare, and to move for an Inquiry into the circumstances under which his dismissal took place. The hon. Gentleman said, this matter was one of those which were generally called a private grievance, and was not a matter of general importance; but he thought if he established the facts of his case the House would not hesitate to interpose. Mr. Duffy must necessarily, unless some relief was given to him by the Government, after 20 years' service, betake himself to the workhouse, because all he was worth in the world was expended in the erection of a building in the county of Kildare, and his capital in it was now sought to be destroyed. Mr. Duffy's connection with Kildare commenced in 1855, at which time the system of military canteens had not been introduced, and civilians were allowed to supply groceries and spirituous liquors to the troops. Mr. Duffy made an agreement, and one of the terms of that agreement was that he should hold the position of sutler at the camp during good behaviour, and that he should not knowingly permit or suffer anything contrary to the rules and regulations of the commanding officer. Immediately on signing that agreement, Mr. Duffy expended a sum of between £2,000 and £2,500 in erecting a canteen, and from that time up to the 9th of February, 1874, he carried on the business of camp sutler without a single complaint being made against him. But on the 9th of February, 1874, he was told he was not to open his canteen until he had seen Major General Wardlaw, the commanding officer. Mr. Duffy saw the commanding officer, who told him that complaints had been made that he had served some soldiers with drink during the prohibited hours on Sunday. There was no foundation whatever for the accusation, but the War Office took the same view of the case as the General commanding, and ultimately Mr. Duffy received a letter from the War Office telling him that he might, if he could, dispose of his canteen building to any person he might find, subject to the approval of the military authorities, but that if it were not so disposed of or removed before a certain date, it would become the property of the War Office. That was surely a most arbitrary procedure. Had the building in question been a wooden hut it might have been removed by Mr. Duffy; but to command him to remove a stone and mortar structure under the penalty of its being confiscated, was manifestly unjust, as well as unreasonable. On July 21, although Mr. Duffy was constantly demanding inquiry, a sentry was put at the door, and no article was allowed to be removed. Assuming that Mr. Duffy had been guilty of the charge, the next circumstance put the authorities in the wrong. On August 20, when the Government knew everything, Mr. Duffy was told he could not conduct the business any more, and that another gentleman had been appointed in his place, who was to give him £1,100 for the building, the stock to be taken on valuation. Mr. Duffy, however, received a verbal message that he was to have nothing to do with Captain Ingham, and that he was to sell his stock and to be off. All that Mr. Duffy asked for was an inquiry, and that he might be told what the accusation against him was. The stock was worth £600 or £700 when Captain Ingham was in negotiation, but when it was sold it realized only £300. On February 4, Mr. Duffy was told to remove the building, which had cost him between £2,000 and £3,000, by March 31. Mr. Duffy presented a memorial protesting against being dealt with in so partial a manner, and the Secretary of State met the memorial in the most courteous way; but on April 30, 1875, Mr. Duffy was told that the Secretary of State saw no ground for altering the decision already made. Under the circumstances, he thought that the Government ought to grant Mr. Duffy an inquiry.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the dismissal of Thomas Duffy, late Brigade Sutler, Curragh Camp, county of Kildare."—(Mr. Meldon.)


regretted that the hon. Member should have given himself the trouble of bringing this case before the House, and that he should have occupied the House with a case which might have been brought before the Courts of Law if there was any grievance in the matter. He, however, contended that no such grievance existed, and could show, on the contrary, that Mr. Duffy had been very leniently dealt with by the War Department. The case was simply this: On the 8th February last year, 30 or 40 soldiers were found on Duffy's premises drinking malt liquors and spirits during prohibited hours, in consequence of which Lord Sandhurst, the general officer commanding, ordered the canteen to be closed. Representations were at once made to the War Department, representing the hardships of the case, and a memorial was presented stating that Mr. Duffy had for 45 years been Keeping canteens; and it was also alleged that in the present case the fault rested not with Mr. Duffy, but with his servant. He was therefore allowed to re-open the canteen from the 8th of March to the 30th June in order that he might dispose of his perishable stock, and then the canteen was closed. Meanwhile Mr. Duffy had written asking that he might receive some compensation for the removal of the hut, and he founded his complaint upon the fact that the hut had been built by himself and was a brick structure; but it was found upon inquiry that it was one of the sutler's old wooden huts, and that he had erected upon it some brick buildings, knowing at the time that he did it at his own risk, and that the buildings were removable at 14 days' notice. There was no knowledge on the part of the War Department of any agreement between Mr. Duffy and Captain Ingham. On August 21 the general officer commanding reported that the number of canteens was already sufficient, and the result was that an arrangement entered into between Mr. Duffy and Captain Ingham fell to the ground. Mr. Duffy was informed that he must get out of the building by September 30; but the time was afterwards lengthened to November 25, and further to December 31, and on January 12 Mr. Duffy was still in possession of the premises. Although the removal was to take place on the 7th June, he was still in possession at the present time, and so far from the War Department having been severe, they gave him three months in which to get rid of his perishable stock; and he also had something like 12 months allowed without enforcing that removal which might have been enforced upon 14 days' notice. So far from having anything to complain of, the War Department had done all in their power to meet his case. If he had anything to complain of, his case was better suited for the consideration of a Court of Law than of Parliament, and if he thought that he had any grievance he should consult his solicitor.


said, it was evident from the statement to which the House had just listened that the sole accusation against Mr. Duffy was that some soldiers were found drinking on his premises at forbidden hours. Even if that accusation were well-founded, was it any sufficient reason for driving into the workhouse a man who had so long properly conducted himself? It was scarcely fair that a public servant having a grievance of this kind should be told to go to a Court of Law. Let there be an inquiry into the facts of the case, or let compensation be given to Mr. Duffy for his buildings.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 33; Noes 72: Majority 39.

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